A positive start to life on loan at Wolves for Sheyi Ojo has come to an abrupt standstill recently, with the Reds loanee transitioning from an important squad member to watching from the stands.
Excitement surrounded Ojo’s season-long loan switch, with Wolves thrilled to secure the services of one of the Reds biggest prospects, and Liverpool hopeful the 18-year-old could replicate Jordon Ibe’s success of last season, something Ojo admitted he hoped to emulate.
But the teenager’s fortunes have taken a turn for the worse over recent weeks, culminating in his exclusion from Kenny Jackett’s matchday squad for the last two games.
The Reds youngster enjoyed a bright beginning with the Championship side.
Playing five minutes in the first game of the season, Ojo made his full debut in a 2-1 win over Newport County in League Cup three days later, taking no time to introduce himself by registering an assist from the wide left role Jackett has predominantly used him in.
His impressive first start, and a promising cameo against Hull, saw him handed his first full Championship outing against Cardiff where he turned in a lively hour-long display, before scoring his first for the club in a Man-of-the-Match showing against Barnet.
Inconsistent action in the league played out for Ojo despite impressing in cup competition, but he became an important go-to figure in Jackett’s squad, offering the Wolves boss a pacy, direct, and skilful option of quality to call upon.
And when turned to, the youngster rarely disappointed.
He capped an excellent cameo with an assist for Adam Le Fondre’s winner against Charlton, before enjoying the best outing of his spell so far against Fulham, transforming the game and inspiring the first of successive wins with a goal and assist in a 3-0 victory after entering at half time.
Such was his developing importance the Wolves boss tipped Ojo to fill the void left by Bakary Sako – high praise for the teenager, with the talismanic Frenchman’s impact at Molineux unrivalled in recent years.
“I would be happy with that. It has to be his aim but he will be pleased with what he has done so far and happy with the game time he has got and the effect he has had.
“I think he has made an impact since he has been here – the early cup games he played in and then coming off the bench have been big features.
“He is a natural wide-left player with good pace and I just feel he is going to continue to improve over the course of the season.”
Another assist from the bench followed albeit in defeat to Derby, and he played only 88 minutes across three straight losses in which he struggled to impact, before coming on to net in a 2-0 midlands derby win over Birmingham.
The St. Andrew’s success on Halloween would be the only in eight games for Wolves, as well as Ojo’s sole contribution in six outings.
As his impact dried up – perhaps down to the pressure to perform under Jackett’s “new Sako” comments – along with Wolves’ form, so did his match action as his fortunes took a downward turn.
Change of Fortunes
Under increased scrutiny and in a flailing team, Ojo struggled.
His lack of productivity in his last six appearances, posting a single set up, led to criticism from sections of the Wolves faithful, especially as it coincided with the team’s poor overall form.
Inconsistency in his displays – proving a lethal option to utilise from the bench at times but largely ineffective when starting – that has seen him fail to complete 90 minutes, also frustrated.
The imbalance and lack of contribution saw Ojo’s game time become increasingly limited – he made one start in the last five games he featured in, playing only 170 minutes of a possible 540 after his Derby assist – frustrating Jurgen Klopp in his attempts to track his progress.
It's the same bench too, so Sheyi Ojo again misses out on the squad. Subs: McCarey, Doherty, Coady, Byrne Wallace, Afobe, Holt.
— Tim Spiers (@TimSpiers) December 11, 2015
His downturn in form came at a big cost – with disappointingly little leeway for a slump in his first period of consistent competitive first team football – being omitted from matchday involvement for the last two games.
The 18-year-old, who has been unlucky to be the man to make way, lost out to Wolves winger, Jordan Graham, and has been forced to watch on as his replacement takes full advantage of the opportunity after being recalled from a productive loan spell in League Two at Oxford United.
While ex-Aston Villa trainee Graham grabbed two assists against Rotherham in a 2-1 win two games ago, Ojo was nowhere to be seen.
Graham and K-Mac outstanding tonight in midfield. Graham really cementing his place now. Ojo and Byrne seeping into the wilderness
— Wolves Fancast (@WWFCFancast) December 11, 2015
And sticking with the same group for the visit of Nottingham Forest last time out, he once again had to settle for a place in the stands – something he could have to get used to with Graham impressing, claiming another assist in a 1-1 draw.
It’s been a sharp downturn of fortunes for the ex-MK Dons product, who finds himself in the first tough situation of his senior career.
Ojo may have to be patient and wait for his chance, with Wolves having picked up four points from the two games he’s missed.
But with the Christmas period looming, the talented youngster will hope an opportunity comes sooner rather than later, with Leeds United the next team to visit Molineux.
Ojo has a battle on his hands to force his way into contention, but having demonstrated his talent on arrival, he can undoubtedly prove his worth again and go on to enjoy a positive second half of the campaign.